- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 6, 2008

The White House today said the interrogation technique called waterboarding, as practiced by U.S. intelligence officials, does not amount to torture, one day after an administration official said publicly for the first time that such a method has been used.

A White House spokesman said that President Bush authorized his CIA director to confirm yesterday the use of waterboarding commonly described as simulating drowning by covering the mouth with a cloth and pouring water down the throat on three suspected terrorists.

“This program and the techniques used in it were determined lawful, through a process,” said White House spokesman Tony Fratto.

Mr. Fratto also said the technique is authorized currently, but could be used in the future if a rigid set of legal and procedural safeguards are followed.

Senate Democrats, however, have demanded a government investigation into the matter to determine whether laws forbidding torture were broken.

Senate Majority Whip Richard J. Durbin, Illinois Democrat, told Attorney General Michael B. Mukasey in a letter Tuesday that he would stall the nomination of U.S. District Judge Mark Filip in Chicago to be deputy attorney general until Mr. Mukasey responds to his request for a criminal investigation and other torture-related inquiries.

Mr. Fratto clarified his comments on the legality of waterboarding by saying that each specific time the technique has been used, its legality was “dependent on the circumstances.”

In the future, Mr. Fratto said in each case where officials think the technique is needed, the CIA director will present “a plan” to the attorney general, who in turn would judge its legality on a case-by-case basis. If deemed legal, the attorney general and the CIA director would present their plan to the president.

Before this week, Mr. Bush and his administration had refused to discuss any interrogation techniques used by U.S. officials on suspected terrorists, but insisted the U.S. government does not use torture.

Late in 2006, Mr. Bush spoke publicly for the first time about “enhanced interrogation techniques” that he said were being used on select terrorist suspects.

Mr. Bush has said the techniques are “tough” but lawful. He did not elaborate, saying he does not want terrorists to “adjust” or train to resist interrogation.

Michael V. Hayden gave approval to talk about waterboarding, based on “the cumulative impact of public discussion of that technique,” which included “misinformation,” Mr. Fratto said.

Mr. Hayden, in testimony before the Senate intelligence panel on Tuesday, said three men were subjected to waterboarding between 2002 and 2003: Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the mastermind of the September 11 terrorist attacks; Abu Zubaydah, an early member of al Qaeda and close associate of Osama bin Laden, and Abd al-Rahim al-Nashir, who helped plan the USS Cole bombing and headed al Qaeda operations in the Persian Gulf before his capture in 2002.

Mr. Fratto, when asked why the practice is not authorized currently, said that the intelligence community’s “knowledge of how to interrogate in effective ways has evolved.”

Mr. Hayden, in his testimony, said that waterboarding was used in 2002 and 2003 in part because U.S. officials were fearful of another terrorist attack after September 11.

“There was the belief that additional catastrophic attacks against the homeland were inevitable. And we had limited knowledge about al Qaeda and its workings,” Mr. Hayden said. “Those two realities have changed.” Jerry Seper contributed to this article.

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide